Say farewell to worry and stress and say hello to the mellow islands vibe, a temperate year-round climate, and long, lazy hours of doing just what you want. Count on temperatures around 70° in the summer and 40° in the winter. A happy confluence of weather systems also accounts for the high level of air quality you’ll appreciate across the San Juans. So relax—you’re on “island time” now!
There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County. Three ferry-served Islands, San Juan Island (with the county seat Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, and Lopez Island are the most populous and host the vast majority of lodging and dining options and tourism activities. Shaw Island is also accessible by ferry but has limited camping and visitor amenities.
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing & management organization (DMO) for the San Juan Islands, contracting with both San Juan County and the town of Friday Harbor. We partner with the Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island Chambers of Commerce which provide visitor information services at their locations.
Our mission is “To enhance the economic prosperity of San Juan County by promoting the San Juan Islands as a preferred, year-round travel destination, while respecting and sustaining the Islands’ unique and diverse ecosystems, environments, lifestyles, and cultures.” Learn about the history of tourism in the San Juan Islands with these History essays
1. ) What is your destination most known for?
The San Juan Islands of Washington State www.visitsanjuans.com are renowned as a watchable wildlife destination. Rocky shorelines, old-growth forest, and the serene Salish Sea create a habitat for an eclectic mix of wildlife species. It’s a marine mammal-lovers paradise from striking acrobatic black and white orca whales to giant humpback whales or shy minke whales. Raucous sea lions, playful seals, otters, and dolphins round out the motley crew of marine mammals. On land, watch for red fox hunting rabbits, nesting bald eagles, and black-tailed deer in our many waterfront parks. Discover a miniature universe in shoreline tide pools or clinging to marina docks. Here colorful sea stars, crabs, and anemones feast in nutrient-rich waters.
The Islands were nick-named the “Gourmet Archipelago” by Lonely Planet magazine for good reason. With fresh fish at their fingertips and Island farms producing everything from kiwi fruit to goat cheese, Kobe beef, and Mangalitsa pork, it’s no wonder our chefs are world-renowned. Dine alfresco at three shellfish farms and sample the Islands’ award-winning liquid arts scene at three breweries, two distilleries, three vineyards, and two cideries. The eat-local ethic extends to restaurants that rely on onsite farms or partner with local farms to source the freshest ingredients.
2.) During this time, how can we enjoy your destination?
Mask up and enjoy the many outdoor options for recreation, from hiking to biking, kayaking to whale watching. Most restaurants offer outdoor dining and take-out options as well. The Islands seclusion coupled with the careful following of Covid protocols has meant that there has been little community spread of the virus here. San Juan County was the first county in Washington State to have a mandatory mask ordinance, and we ask visitors to help us stay safe by following the same protocols islanders do: https://www.visitsanjuans.com/staysafe.
3.) What hidden gem should not be missed when visiting your destination?
Many pocket beaches at the American Camp unit of the San Juan Islands National Historical Park offer seclusion and fabulous views of Haro Strait with the snow-capped Olympic mountains in the background. Watch for whales and other marine mammals in Haro Strait.
4.) What’s one feature that can’t be missed when visiting your website?
Please check out our media page at www.visitsanjuans.com/media for story ideas and access to our extensive photo archive.
5.) How did you hear about NATJA, why did you join?
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau was a member of NATJA when I took my job and I’ve continued our active participation for the last eight years. Membership has nurtured connections and friendships which go far beyond mere business associations.
6.) Is there anything else you feel travel media should know about your destination?
We love working with journalists interested in soft outdoor adventure. We particularly value those who are committed to sharing stewardship messages such as the “Leave No Trace,” (www.visitsanjuans.com/leave-no-trace) principles with readers. We prefer to craft individual press trips for adventurous journalists, giving them the freedom to explore and meet island characters independently, rather than one-size-fits-all group press trips.
We are a safe destination. Families and single women can relax knowing crime is not an issue in the Islands. And, all visitors, regardless of ethnicity or gender identity, are welcome.